I recently had the opportunity to visit Gasogi Groupe Scolaire located in the rural area of the District of Gasabo (Kigali). With 2,578 students and 36 teachers, Gasogi Groupe Scolaire is one of the 49 schools Wellspring Foundation supports through its School Development Program. From the moment I reached Gasogi I noticed the positive engagement among the lower and upper secondary students. People at the school seemed engaged and at peace. I felt that I was really in a safe and warm environment. The joy and enthusiasm on the playground was palpable. No doubt, these children were in good hands.
What was it that made Gasogi different from so many other schools? In my curiosity to know a little more about Gasogi Groupe Scolaire, I decided to meet some of the School staff and to ask them to tell me what the source of this particular environment is. That is when I met Antoinette and Hyacinthe.
Antoinette is a pretty, middle-aged, seemingly young lady with fancy braids. As the Director of Study of the School, she has been overseeing the learning and teaching in the school for more than 3 years. With her constant smile, she warmly welcomed me in her office.
Antoinette explained that what I witnessed what the outward manifestation of a deep and real change that took place in this school since the Leadership decided to implement Quality Education Principles offered by Wellspring Foundation.
“Our school has not been like this until we started to implement Wellspring Foundations Quality Education Practices” she said as I was searching for explanations to help me understand this unusual phenomenon that cannot be easily found in a so many Rwandan public school.
“There was a time,” she recalled, “when no one here understood what key concepts like ‘Lesson observation’ or ‘Lesson Planning’ or ‘inclusive education’ was about. Learning and teaching were done carelessly. Our goal at that time was to make sure the students succeeded at the national exams whether or not they received Quality Education. But since the time we understood the importance to carefully plan our lessons, to diligently observe lessons in classrooms, things completely changed. We understood the importance of considering both fast and slow learners as we plan and teach. We understood the importance of helping the students develop their cognitive skills. Applying these principles eased the teachers’ work whereas before they kept complaining about their work because it was a burden. The students responded very positively to this change and what you see is just one outward manifestation of the inward change our school people are experiencing.”
As I was exiting the school compound at the end of my visit, my attention was captured by a small crowd of young students who were joyfully laughing and surrounding a young woman. Her name was Hyacinthe and she was one the school teachers. With a pretty smile on her face and a decent coiffure, Hyacinthe was spontaneous, relaxed, and easily approachable.Hyacinthe’s Story
What could be the cause of such an enthusiasm and bond expressed by this kind of unusual friendship displayed by these teens students on this sunny day? I asked Hyacinthe to help me understand the phenomenon.
“It’s certainly because of the new Students Behavior Management principles we learned from Wellspring Trainers,” she responded. “There was a time when we used to hurt and brutalize our students to make them behave in a way we wanted. But since we learned and understood what true behavior management is about, our students really love the school. They are always happy and real. It’s one of the reasons I firmly decided to stay in this school and to continue to teach my students because not only do I love them but they are also my friends.” She clearly could not hide her joy and emotions as she was telling her story.
Gasogi Groupe scolaire is certainly not one of the privileged schools in Rwanda or in Gasabo. But what one thing is very certain: this rural small school with very limited resources and various challenges has decided to proactively use their assets, strengths, potential and time to move from Heartache to Joy.